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Chamber signs deal with Korean counterpart

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has formed an economic development partnership with the Gangnam Chamber of Commerce in hopes of bringing more international business into the county.

As part of the verbal agreement, Gangnam - a district of Seoul, Korea - will encourage its local businesses that are opening up North American offices to take a look at Gwinnett County. Gwinnett will do the same for local companies that are looking to establish themselves in Asia.

"Our goal for this strategic partnership is to build an economic development 'pipeline' between Gwinnett and Gangnam," said Jim Maran, president of the Gwinnett Chamber.

Gangnam has a lot of information technology companies, much like Gwinnett, and should present great opportunities for Gwinnett businesses to connect to other parts of the world, said Demming Bass, vice president of marketing and public policy at the Gwinnett chamber.

But IT companies aren't all the two areas have in common.

Their close location to major cities and their wealth also create a bond.

"Gangnam is to Seoul what Gwinnett is to Atlanta," Bass said.

And then there's the traffic, said Andy Kim, global consultant for the Gwinnett chamber. Kim is familiar with the area because he grew up in another suburb of Seoul called Jongru-ku, which is about 30 minutes from Gangnam.

"Traffic is worse than here," Kim said. "It's more like New York City."

The Gwinnett chamber has made a strong push recently to create more overseas partnerships that could benefit the county's economy.

Kim joined the Gwinnett chamber in March as its first global consultant.

Prior to coming to the Gwinnett chamber, Kim had spent 15 years in Pacific Rim territory in management roles within the marketing and management industry. He earned his master's of business administration from Sejong University in Seoul.

The Gwinnett chamber is hoping his connections abroad will help pull international businesses into the county.

Another reason the partnership between Gwinnett and Gangnam was made possible was the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement that was concluded on April 1.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative described the agreement in a press release as "the United States' most commercially significant free trade agreement in over a decade."

The comprehensive trade agreement will eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services, promote economic growth and enhance trade between the U.S. and South Korea.

AT A GLANCE

• What: Gangnam, Korea

• Where: Gangnam is in the southeastern part of Seoul

• Population: 556,964 people